Strengthening Investment in Arts and Culture
November 10, 2005 | Press Release | Arts & Culture in Chicago

MacArthur, together with the Prince Charitable Trusts and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, announced nearly $3 million in new grants to 87 local arts and cultural organizations.  These new awards bring MacArthur’s total 2005 arts and culture commitment to $4.5 million, disbursed among 179 different museums, theaters, dance companies and other groups. 

“Nourishing the creative spirit has always been central to our work,” said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of MacArthur.  “These arts and culture grants are an important expression of our overall civic commitment to Chicago.”

“The arts contribute to the life of our city in so many powerful ways,” Fanton said.  “They are a source of entertainment; they promote economic development; they celebrate diversity.  The arts also extend our capacity to comprehend the lives of others and allow us to imagine a more just and peaceful world.”

Today’s announcement includes four direct MacArthur grants, each worth $150,000 over five years, to the DuSable Museum, Kohl Children’s Museum, Lookingglass Theatre and WYCC Channel 20

Responding to concerns about the affordability and accessibility of space and technology, the Foundation is also awarding special project grants to the Harris Theater for Music and Dance ($100,000 over two years) and League of Chicago Theatres ($300,000 over one year).  The Harris Theater will run a pilot program subsidizing performance space for small and midsize groups.  The League of Chicago Theatres is building a comprehensive online box office available to all Illinois arts organizations.

Two-thirds of the announced funding, nearly $2 million, is being distributed jointly by MacArthur and its partners at the Prince Charitable Trusts and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. 

In recent years, MacArthur has strengthened its relationship with these smaller foundations in an effort to decentralize its grant-making and better meet the needs of small and medium sized arts groups.  The MacArthur Fund at Prince is funding 29 new grants to support mid-sized arts groups with annual budgets between $500,000 and $2 million.  The MacArthur Fund at Driehaus is funding 52 new grants to support smaller arts groups with annual budgets of less than $500,000. 

At the specific request of local arts leaders, all MacArthur funding made through Prince and Driehaus is for general operating support – as opposed to more restrictive project-based grants.  The flexibility to spend their grant dollars as they see fit provides arts organizations with stability during volatile economic times and the freedom to take creative risks.

“We are grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with the MacArthur Foundation on support for mid-size arts organizations, which are such an important part of the city’s cultural fabric,” said Benna Wilde, Managing Director of the Prince Charitable Trusts.  “Grantees appreciate multi-year operating support, which allows them to plan ahead and make the best use of the funding.”

“Our work with the MacArthur Foundation continues to enrich and strengthen arts and culture in Chicago,” said Sunny Fischer, Executive Director of the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.  “Because of the MacArthur Fund at the Driehaus Foundation, so many performing companies, museums, literary groups, and arts advocacy organizations are able to strengthen their work and expand the array of choices for Chicago audiences.”

This year, the MacArthur Foundation initiated a series of conversations with all of its arts and culture grantees, including the Prince and Driehaus recipients.  In response to feedback received in those meetings, the Foundation has increased its multi-year support.  For the first time, more than half of the grants made with Prince and Driehaus will cover two years.
Long-term financial commitment is a hallmark of MacArthur’s support.  It is one of just a handful of Chicago-based arts funders providing multi-year grants and the only one offering five-year direct awards. 

MacArthur is the largest private arts and culture funder in the city of Chicago, having invested a total of nearly $150 million since its inception in 1978.  During its first decade, MacArthur’s focus was on more established arts organizations.  Since the 1990s, the Foundation has diversified its arts funding to promote the development of arts education, nurture community-based arts programs and help reach more diverse audiences. 

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